Graves' disease

Medical Specialties: Cardiology, Endocrinology, Pediatrics

Clinical Definition

Graves' disease is a syndrome in which the sufferer has a thyroid gland that produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. This thyroid hormone controls bodily functions such as digestion, metabolism, body temperature and heart rate.

In Our Own Words

The thyroid gland, at the front of the neck, is crucial in regulating heart rate, metabolism, body temperature, digestion and other functions. Graves' disease is not the same as hyperthyroidism, but Graves’ disease is an important cause of hyperthyroidism (or an overactive thyroid gland). Often, sufferers of Graves' disease also have Graves' eye disease, which involves inflammation or even bulging out of the eyes. 

In Graves’ disease, the body makes antibodies to – and mistakenly attacks – the thyroid gland, sending it into overdrive. This disorder runs in families and is much more common in women than in men. In addition to genes and gender, smoking and stress are potential predisposing factors. Hyperthyroidism due to Graves’ disease can lead to many problems, including bone loss and heart problems, if left untreated. 

Relevant Conditions
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Bulging eyes (exophthalmos)
  • Hyperthyroidism
Common Types
  • Graves' disease
  • Graves' eye disease
Side Effects
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Weight loss
  • Bulging eyes
  • Insomnia
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sources
  • The Cleveland Clinic. "Thyroid Disease Description." Diseases & Conditions 2013. http://my.clevelandclinic.org. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • American Academy of Family Physicians. "Hyperthyroidism: Complications." Nov. 2010. http://familydoctor.org. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • Johns Hopkins Children's Center. "Hyperthyroidism" 2013. http://www.hopkinschildrens.org. Accessed Aug. 2013.
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